Sunday, April 27, 2008

Music Water and yet Music

If you are passionate about music whilst running cycling and swimming one thing is clear. Your standard MP3 player is not going to do so well whilst swimming. You might get a little sweaty on a run, but try swimming with an unprotected MP3 player and your music will be short lived.

NB:In view of my previous Nano death whilst cycling in the rain this solution might also come in handy there too ...

But I digress ... This Sunday I successfully tested my generation #2 waterproof music solution. Let's see how it has done.

Generation #2 solution - It works and I can hear something

How: Otterbox waterproof case for Apple iPod Nano Second Generation with Aquapac headphones

I tested this new combination this Sunday 27th April. Results - fantastic! Overall whilst swimming the sound through the Aquapac headphones was very very close to that using regular headphones whilst sitting at my desk at work. After a 30 minute swim the player was still going so I figured the Otterbox had infact worked as a waterproof case (this was a small bet since looking down the side of the case it bows out in the middle. I tried it empty and then using a dead Nano in the sink and all was well, so it was a relief than in the slightly deeper waters of a swimming pool the seal also held)

Put the Nano into the case

And close the clip at the top. A membrane allows you to use the clickwheel. Unlike my old H2O case it contains no moving parts (for the clickwheel) and is therefore slimmer and easier to use if you use fingers.

AquaPac headphones. Straight end connector that will fit an iPhone! Or in this case the Otterbox. In order for the headphones to work you need to put them into your dry ears and trap a small air compartment. If you do not, i.e. you lose this seal in the water, well you wont be hearing much. The headphones are waterproof so you cant drown them in that instance just get out of the water, make air compartment reseal and get back in.

Generation #1 solution - It worked but you can hardly hear anything underwater!

How: A H2O waterproof case for first generation Apple iPod nano with H2O generation #1 waterproof headphones

Actually this is a picture of the 2nd gen Nano case, it is identical to the 1st gen case which I have somewhere except that the internal headphone male plug is moved the 0.1mm to correspond to the moved position of the 2nd gen vs 1st gen Nano. (Off topic .. when I got my 2nd gen Nano I tried to put it in my first gen case. Of course Apple had moved the hole by this 0.1mm rendering my case useless - thanks Apple!)
To give H2O its due the waterproof seal on this H2O unit was much more convincing than the Otterbox, plus there is a waterproof seal to seal against the H2O headphones. With this combination I was never in any doubt that my Nano was going to stay dry, with the Otterbox, well it is early days but I am still a little nervous!

The H2O case is slightly larger than the Otterbox one.

These are the H2O H1 headphones. The principle problem to me is that underwater you can barely hear anything. I suppose you might be supposed to use the cone shaped rubber plugs that could go from the headphones into your ear. But I tried this and they would not fit in my ear, plus they could fall off, plus they make the headphones stick out stupidly.

H2O now have the black H3 headphones claiming improved volume, but for my gen2 solution as noted above I decided to go with AquaPac after much googling.

Some Alternatives

  • Dedicated waterproof player - SwimMP3
  • First generation iPod Shuffle in a case

  • Waterproofed Second generation iPod Shuffle - The expensive Swimman

  • Er no picture since it looks just like a standard 1GB gen2 shuffle which is somehow waterproofed. Sold with some nice looking headphones and the idea is theat you would clip this player to your swimming goggles and connect to ears with the short headphone cables.

  • Standard Second generation Shuffle in a waterproof case - H2O iS2 case

Put your standard shuffle into this case and connect either H2O headphones or perhaps some AquaPac ones. Looks like this case plus AquaPac would be the currentl lowest volume reasonably prices solution.

  • Dedicated waterproof shuffle case and headphones - H2O ish2

  • 3rd generation iPod nano with an Otterbox case

Well if you implement my solution from scratch today since you cannot buy a new solid 2G nano, you have to go for the larger volume, shiny backed, cocaine table 3G unit. In that case you would need the Otterbox 3G case.

Let us talk money

First you should consider the emotional turmoil, embarassment and possibly the period of angst ridden MP3-less existance that might follow should you drown your existing MP3 player. From a previous post I can admit to this, and that's worth something.

What I am preparing you for is that these solutions are not cheap but if like me you really get incredibly bored if exercise is not accompanied by suitable music or audiobooks or podcasts then any cost is worth it.

Rough GBPound guide to costs ...

8GB nano red (150) + Otterbox case (35 ) + Headphones (25) == 210 GBP

A watery grave

It's a sad day but it is time to say farwell to three trusty gadgets two of which were killed by Agata and one by marcus

The Ericsson T68i has served us well as a phone for many years. It is nice and small and solid and works well as .. a phone! It worked fine until it was accidentally asked to drink some Isostar hydration juice.

The iAudio U2 is a classic MP3 player by many standards. Small and 34grams lightweight it's slighlty smaller than a BIC cigarette lighter yet still manages to pack 2GB MP3 player, full display, Voice Recorder and FM radio. Unfortunately they forgot to waterproof it and last week when we decided to put it in the washing machine it finally expired.

Finally the second generation iPod Nano 8GB. This sleek black beauty was Marcus's pride and joy for over 1 year and was asked to perform as the primarymusic player on the daily 21Km journey from home to Vevey by run or cycle. Unlike that awfully weakly constructed Third generation nano with the ghastly mirror back this is constructed of a single hollowed bar of aluminium. It feels so solid and so strong and has taken much physical hardship. But one evening whilst cycling home it was exposed to over an hour of torrential rain and with a fizz pop and a bang gave up the ghost about 500 metres from home. No amount of careful drying and stroking managed to resuscitate him and now he lies like a small in-animate Clarke-ian obelisk waiting to goto Silicon heaven

So with that we hope our run of watery carelessness is over, this clumsiness is getting expensive.

Lausanne 20K 2008

How is it possible that the organisers of the Lausanne 20Km run always manage to pick the spring weekend with absolutely brilliant weather.

Once week ago rain, then more rain and a temperature of 8 degrees C or less. This Saturday, beautifully sunny skies and 20 degrees Centigrade. Go figure. So here is our amateur race report.

The majority of Saturday was spent trying not to over-eat. This is much like any other Saturday, except this day we had a 20Km run at 6PM. We held out till about 3PM when Marcus's large cheese sandwich probably provided a truely awful pre-race snack.

Then due to some honest question answering about expected run times we found to our horror that Marcus and Agata had been given different start times. Marcus, was to start at 6PM and Agata at 6.15PM thus ensuring we would probably only see each other at race end.

So Marcus's run began at 6PM and he tried valiantly to keep up with his peer runners. But this plan had a few flaws. Firstly the baloon pace man shot off like a hare never to be seen again; and although I overtook people frequently on the uphills sections there is only so fast my short fat legs can move on the downhills.

By not taking Agata's advice and studying the course beforehand I had absolutely no idea that it was pretty much all up until KM13 and then severly downhill for the remainder. I can't think of any more excuses just to say I was mightily thrilled with the 01:36 finish time.

Agata's better planning resulted in an even more impressive 01:51 time for her, a new Personal Best and over 15 minutes better than her previous time. This was due to good planning, and good preparation in the form of frequent visits to her spinning class at her Work gymnasium. I hear three Spinning class instructors have fallen by the wayside in the last 6 months, now I know why.

So after a post race shower and wine and pizza (well you have to, right?) we waddled off home with large smiles on our faces. Another great weekend in Lausanne.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A windy weekend wedding in Belfast

We were delighted an honoured to attend the wedding of Paul Hamilton and Cliona Haran in Belfast on the weekend of April 19th. Of course the real story also included the journey.

The fun started when we found that it was not possible to reliably get to the Friday afternoon wedding from Geneva starting out on Friday morning so we'd have to travel on Thursday night. We had a brainwave of going from Geneva to Gatwick, staying in YoTel and then flying Gatwick to Belfast Friday AM.
Yotel, the ultra compact, high tech hotel (large people need not apply) and has a presence actually within Gatwick airport. Rented by the hour we prebooked a 6 hour slot and on the night checked in via credit card. The beauty of the location is that unlike Travelodge (for example) you don't leave the flight terminal and save the transit time to and from your stop-over hotel. Unfortunately after 2 long and pleasurable showers we were too tired to play with the free Internet or the high tech TV system and just checked out the quality of the bed and pillows - good!

Friday afternoon and a checkin and stroll out of the Premier Inn Belfast we took a taxi to the Culloden Hotel where the Paul and Cliona were getting married. Some photographs attest to the great time had by all

The remaining part of the weekened was spent in the traditional Majzel Bennett fashion, namely restrained shopping, eating, sightseeing and exercise.

The Streats cafeteria gave us the chance to indulge in our latest pleasure .. porridge.

The Belfast EYE as I call it was irresistable, we did not go for either of the VIP tinted glass bubble or champagne options though.

Risk taking to the last see me here outside Northen Rock bravely brandishing some money, I was not brave enough to enter and open an account though ..
Using iPhone technology we were able to snap pictures of feet pressure point areas. I always wanted to know what is linked to what. Now I know

With our views about religion it constantly suprises us how many churches and faith bookshops we visit. Still there is nothing like research and a continuing education. First the shop
Magnifier: great to make that small miracle somehow larger
Belfast is home to the famous Harland and Wolfe shipyard which is famous for many things including the builidg of the Titanic. Close by is this large fish sculpture to remind us of the character of the area.

Marks and Spencers continued to be a welcome visit. Why would anybody buy business suits, ties or socks anywhere else? I really dont understand! Here Agata has been lured into consuming a M&S cream tea.
We managed to get down with the kids and gave a few bigups to the locals learning to board

The night was spent in a trip to a few small Belfast bars and then to the cinema to watch In Bruges. A rather decent film and the 5 pound entry fee reminded us just how expensive things are in London or Switzerland.

Sunday managed to find us in LA Fitness for almost 2 hours. Our carefully brought running clothes were not used principally due to the continued wind, but LA proved a very suitable alternative. For the first time in over 2 years I listened to the inhouse music over my MP3 player, it was that good!
Later we met this nice wire woman
A refined and quiet street in the Arts Quarter

Just before leaving our passion for Fish and Chips was assuaged at The Kitchen Bar

Weekend summary: wonderful but cold and windy. Fantastic to see Paul again and hope he can find time to visit us in Switzerland.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

An Engineer's Guide to Cats

Its a sweeping statement but as cat lovers and Engineers; well we feel that this is the most charming YouTube video we have ever seen.

It now awaits your viewing from our website or on youtube

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Choosing a subnotebook in April 2008

This is in fact the philosophers guide to sub-notebook selection. How so, because first (as with any purchase) you should satisfy yourself as to the basis in need of your purchase. Some reasons that might disqualify you ...

  • You already have several notebooks, and even a subnotebook or two, so another one would just be sheer madness

  • You like the idea of a small ultra portable notebook, but your large fingers would not fit that small keyboard and your failing eyesight would not focus clearly on that tiny screen

  • Your budget is limited and buying a high depreciating subnote instead of just a moderately depreciating desktop is not so bright

  • You like upgrading your computer and a subnote is probably the least upgradable computer style around, even a notebook has more chance of a careful dis and then reassembly
So having got all those caveats out of the way here are the April 2008 choices. Obviously products not yet shipping (e.g. Asus Eee PC 900) or mediocre choices (Everex Cloudbook) are not discussed

Macbook Air

+ 1300GBP for the 1.8GHz and >2K GBP for the SSD version. Users with deep pockets and depreciation amnesia should be happy.

+13.3" screen so you can actually use it

=Runs Mac OS-X and with some struggles Windows programs

+No CD or DVD drive - brilliant!

= Limited ports . 1 USB, no ethernet, but probably enough

On the face of it not a subnotebook but the low volume and lightweight places it here. Currently the fastest notebook of its class, though Windows users will have to convert to the UNIX based OS-X

HP 2133

+ The most stylish and configurable quality subnote available today.

+HP's has announced this to the education market so its going to be a huge seller

+1.19Kg, 8.9" 1200x800, 2GBmem, VGA webcam, SD slot, Expresscard, 160GB 7200 rpm, top spec!

= CPU 1.2 GHz, 128 KB L2 cache, 800 MHz FSB, not bad, but no macbook air!

+ Runs Vista 32 (Business / other) or Microsoft Windows XP

HTC Shift

+1 year late but finally here at about 850 GBP

+ Includes a Phone SIM slot

-- But can't use it as a phone only for data

+ Uniquely Includes Windows Mobile OS running on a second StrongArm processor

-- Windows mobile is locked down though may be hacked

+ Reasonable specs: 1GB RAM, 60GB disk, SD slot, 7" 800x600 touchscreen

= Rumoured to include a GPS, but not officially supported

All in all a possibly great product which at every turn has been dogged by let downs from the manufacturers HTC. With enough hacking you might turn this into a useful device but out of the box its between disappointing and a disaster.


= For a long time a hugely expensive but capable ultra portable subnote, continuously updated. 1300 GBP for top model, extra for SSD.

+latest E2 model available with 64GB SSD

+1GB memory, 800x400 touchscreen, 120GB hdisk,

+ 454 grams

+Wireless, Ethernet, Bluetooth

+SIM slot allows for HSDPA networking

Just when you could afford OQO1, OQO2 was announced, then the E2 model, now SSD available

Apple iPhone

Hardly a subnote you might think however consider

+ Good for occaisional surfing
+ Able to read POP mail e.g. gmail
+ Able to play YouTube videos
+ Contact list and calendar shared from PC host via iTunes

So these are the current sensible choices. In the coming months you'll have the refined ASUS eee 900 and the Dell subnote, but then in this business there is nearly always a better just announced product that's not shipping yet to consider.